Episode 9: The Fenian Invasion and the Battle of Ridgeway


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Remember in history class when you read about the drunken Irish mob that tried to invade Canada? It gets about half a page in most high-school history textbooks and like so much of the official historical narrative in this country, there's more to the story.

In this podcast episode, host Russell Hillier talks to historian and author, Peter Vronsky, about his book Ridgeway: The History of Canada, and gets to the bloody truth about the Fenian invasions.

Far from being a drunken mob, the Fenians who invaded Canada in 1866 were hardened veterans of the American Civil War and they bested Upper Canada on the field of battle. Imagine in the year 2020, a thousand American veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan, armed with the latest military technology, crossed into Canada. Think of the panic and confusion resulting from such a move. This is precisely what happened in 1866, as 1000 Fenian veterans from the Civil War crossed the Niagara frontier, with the goal of capturing Canada and holding it hostage in exchange for Britain relinquishing control of Ireland.

In hindsight, it seems like a crazy proposition and yet, the Fenians did land an army and completely routed the Canadian forces sent against them in the battle of Ridgeway.

In this episode, we get into the Fenian strategy, the battle tactics and the reasons why this battle has been largely forgotten by Canadian history.

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